Philanthropy expert Mike Rea explores the story of the 2004 tsunami, as well as the Diversified Disaster Giving approach for effective charitable giving to affected communities
On the heels of Hurricane Sandy and for the 8th Anniversary of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, philanthropy expert Mike Rea, founder of the "Tsunami Plus 10" Project, releases a complementary Viewers Guide on the event's aftermath and lessons in conjunction with the theatrical release of "The Impossible" starring Naomi Watts and wan McGregor. The film is an account of a family caught in Thailand during one of the worst catastrophes of our time—the Indian Ocean Tsunami of the day after Christmas, 2004. The Viewers Guide, titled "Beyond The Impossible," provides the larger context of what happened that day and since. It also includes an important call to action: for Diversified Disaster Giving (DDG), three guiding principles for donors seeking to effectively support long-term recovery for communities they care about. Timely opportunities for helping distressed 2004 tsunami regions exist even today. The highly anticipated film, will open in select cities nationwide on December 21, 2012.
"We applaud the filmmakers for their important film," says Rea. "We have been working on this Viewers Guide and an accompanying short documentary film because we believe it is paramount to share with the public what happened during the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, what we've learned, and how we can most effectively respond to natural disasters. The 2004 tsunami taught us that when donors do their due diligence and prioritize local solutions, the needs of communities can be met for months and even years."
Hurricane Sandy and the impending release of "The Impossible" provide the backdrop against which the early research and video footage from a summer 2012 research trip to Sri Lanka are being made available immediately—instead of waiting for the 10th Anniversary as originally planned.
Rea's Diversified Disaster Giving advocates for three shifts in current giving practice: (1) give to recovery in addition to relief, (2) give to local organizations as well as multi-national organizations, and (3) give more than once, supporting immediate appeals but also reserving some of your giving decisions for later.
According to Rea, convenience, habit and lack of knowledge generally lead people to donate solely to large international relief organizations, which he believes certainly have vital roles to play. However, he advises a diversified giving strategy for donors—of any means—who want to make a lasting difference.
According to Gillian Yeoh, disaster recovery specialist at Give2Asia, "The key to Diversified Disaster Giving is to do whatever you can to use your donations to create real, sustainable change. This high bar immediately broadens your perspective beyond short-term relief. It necessitates engagement of local organizations closest to the affected communities and who themselves are part of the solutions in sustaining a long-term recovery. I've seen this approach succeed in poor countries and rich ones, from Aceh to Fukushima, and often with very modest sums."
Give2Asia, a non-profit organization co-founded by Rea, which has facilitated more than $200 million in giving since inception, has been instrumental in developing and applying these practices. Its Tsunami Recovery Fund made 57 grants worth $4 million to Asian charitable organizations.
Rea's belief in the power of personal philanthropy, as well as the extraordinary stories of this seminal global disaster, drove him to create the "Tsunami Plus 10" Project. In 2004, Rea was responsible for working with tsunami donors and for approving tsunami grants to Asian nonprofits. Did it make a difference? How does the promise of philanthropy play out over almost a decade, with the full benefit of hindsight? Where are individual beneficiaries from those projects today?
These questions took Rea back to Sri Lanka in August 2012, along with his Tsunami Plus 10 collaborator Mayra Padilla. They personally saw how Give2Asia's charitable contributions made a big difference — and where they could do things differently. They filmed their trip and are providing the "lessons learned" in the short documentary film "To Sandy From Sri Lanka", that is also available for free viewing on the project's website.
As the 10th Anniversary of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami nears, Mike Rea plans to create a much larger push around Diversified Disaster Giving to ensure that the public at-large knows where and how to best donate when the next natural disaster occurs.
Rea's advice for helping with Hurricane Sandy recovery is also included in the free Viewers Guide. He advises checking with Philanthropy New York, the Council of New Jersey Grantmakers, or a nearby community foundation to support local organizations that know their communities and are likely to hire locally.
For anyone looking to leverage the lessons from Tsunami Plus 10, reinvest in what works, and target fresh opportunities, donations can be made to the Give2Asia via Tsunami Renewal Fund.
Download the free Viewers Guide, "Beyond The Impossible," and accompanying short film, "To Sandy From Sri Lanka," here.